Division Finals set in Maritime Hockey League

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The first round of Maritime Hockey League playoff action ended last night with no statistical upset occurring. In each series the higher seeded team managed to knock off the lower seeded teams to make for two very entertaining match-ups in the Division Finals.

In the Nova Scotia-based Eastlink Division, the Truro Bearcats have been first in the division for almost the entire season, and used that positioning to draw the winner of the best-of-3 mini series, the Valley Wildcats.

The Bearcats flexed both offensive and defensive muscle in the series, outscoring the Wildcats 24-6 in a four game sweep. Second year forward Brandon Pye led the way offensively scoring three goals and adding seven assists for ten points while fellow second year forward Tyler Morrison finished with two goals and seven assists. Rookie forward Kyle Tibbo led the goal scoring department with four.

The second Eastlink Division semi-final put the New Glasgow-based Weeks Crushers against the Amherst Ramblers. The home team would send their fans home happy in every game, leading to the Crushers taking the seven game series. Crushers captain Nick Parker ripped apart the Ramblers defence scoring nine goals in the series, while fellow 20-year old Garrett Holmes put up nine points on a goal and eight assists.

Goaltender Brandon Thibeau put up a 0.930 save percentage in the series, while his counterpart Richard Tingley posted a 0.910 save percentage. Graduating forward Brock Morrison and Brett Shute led the Ramblers attack with six points each. Morrison scored five times and added a helper, while Shute tallied two goals and four assists.

The Bearcats will now look to advance to the Kent Cup Final for the second consecutive year, while the Crushers look to make it back to the final for the first time since they went to back-to-back finals in 2010 and 2011. The two teams split six regular season games with each team taking two of three games on home ice.

In the Meek Division of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, the Miramichi Timberwolves used a late season push to secure first spot in the division. They would take on the defending Kent Cup Champion Summerside Western Capitals in the opening round.

The Timberwolves would win the first three games of this series before Summerside managed a win on home ice in Game 4. In Game 5 a pair of goals midway through the first period put Miramichi ahead and with Summerside unable to score on three five-on-three powerplays, the Timberwolves would manage to hang on and take the game 3-2 and the series 4-1. Timberwolves captain Rankyn Campbell led the offensive charge for Miramichi, scoring four goals and three assists for seven points in the five games.

On the other side, rookie defenceman Cavan Fitzgerald scored three times and added four assists in five games.

In the series that many observers felt the road team had the upper hand coming in to the series, the Dieppe Commandos looked to overcome a late season collapse while the Woodstock Slammers looked to build on their hot end to the season. The Commandos would use three unanswered third period goals to bury the Slammers 6-2 in Game 1.

The Commandos would then win Game 2 in Woodstock by a count of 4-2 before returning home for Game 3. Cody Drover would assist on six Dieppe goals, Joel Blanchard would score three goals and add a pair of assists and Colton Parsons would score two goals and assist on two others as the Commandos defeated the Slammers 7-3 to take a stranglehold on the series.

With their backs against the wall, the Slammers returned home and staved off elimination, scoring three unanswered goals in the third period to defeat the Commandos 5-2. In Game 5 the teams exchanged goals in the opening frame before the Commandos scored four goals in the second period to go up 5-1.

The Slammers would put up a valiant fight, scoring three goals in the games final five minutes, but it was too little too late as the Commandos wrapped up the series in 5 games. Colton Parsons and Cody Drover each put up 12 points in the five game series while Joel Blanchard would score 11.

The Timberwolves and Commandos will meet in the playoffs for the first time since the Commandos moved to Dieppe from Moncton. These two teams met seven times in the regular season, with Miramichi taking five out of the seven games.

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